March 30, 2015 was a most wondrous day for one member of PokerStars, known only by his alias, “RuiDeck”. With only $11 in his account, he used 10 FPP to win a satellite, catapulting him into a $22 Main Event. RuiDeck went on to beat nearly 20,000 other competitors, finishing in 3rd place for a prize of $59,480 (EUR €55,337), but when he attempted with withdrawal more than €40,000 of it to his German bank account, the funds were frozen.
RuiDeck has chosen to keep his true identity anonymous for the time being, but he told reporters several key details about his situation. He is a 29 year old Italian man who traveled to Dresden, Germany to find work. As such, he opened a German bank account. While there, he had no trouble logging onto PokerStars, depositing funds and playing online poker.
It wasn’t until RuiDeck became the winner of a substantial amount of money that the trouble started, and as he tells it, without any warning whatsoever.
“I had only $11 on the game account,” explained the young Italian poker player. He said he had joined the Sunday Storm and with 100 FPP, “tried a satellite to the $22 Main Event”. He performed so well that he won the ticket, which led to his 3rd place finish in the main event three weeks ago.
As ecstatic as any 29 year old online poker player with a new-found fortune could be, RuiDeck instantly made plans to head back home. He requested a withdrawal of about €40k worth of his winnings to his German bank account, quit his job in Dresden and traveled back to Sicily. He had great hopes of using his 5-figure bankroll as a catalyst to become a full-time, professional poker player.
Those hopes were quickly dashed when he received a very concise and disturbing message from the bank in Germany. He was told in no uncertain terms that online poker is considered an illegal activity in the federal state of Germany, and that the money withdrawn from PokerStars had been frozen.
RuiDeck is now without a job, without a poker career, and without the money he feels he rightfully won on PokerStars. He says he fully intends to pursue legal action against the German bank that froze his funds, and that he’s already received a confirmation letter from PokerStars declaring that he broke no laws in winning the money.
RuiDeck could face strong opposition in the Dresden court. Earlier this year, it was revealed that another online gambler from Munich faced similar issues when he attempted to withdrawal €63,490 in blackjack winnings. When the funds arrived at his German bank account, they were immediately confiscated. Not only that, he was tried and convicted of illegal online gambling.
The incident dated back to 2011, but it wasn’t until September of 2014 that the 25 year old Munich man appeared in court. According to reports that surfaced in January, German law states that online gambling is illegal unless the operator of the website is licensed by German authorities. The site in question, which went undisclosed, was licensed in Gibraltar.
In that regard, RuiDeck does have one thing going for him. PokerStars does, in fact, hold a license with German regulator, Schleswig Holstein (view English translation). The Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars, also provides a complete list of its global licensing authorities, which states PokerStars’ German license was issued on December 21, 2012.